open source

Self Help Groups Catalyze Women's Economic and Social Empowerment

This week, we’re sharing video content that helps to explain the impact of Self Help Groups—the groups that we support by building a customized, open source digital platform. This week’s first video focused on how SHGs build resilience and the second looked at the social transformations that SHGs make possible.

Today we’re sharing two new videos, both exploring how women benefit, in particular, from membership in Self Help Groups.

One of the major gains available to SHG members is financial independence from their husbands. Instead of relying upon unpredictable sources of revenue from their partners, SHG members work together until they can meet their needs, take loans and invest in their businesses.

As SHG Facilitator, Stella Millanga says, “Women don’t want to depend on their husbands. They want to lift themselves from the challenges of poverty.”

Elie Calhoun, Principal at Code Innovation elaborates, “People already know that women are likely to spend their money to help secure the well-being of their children and their families. Self Help Groups can amplify the impact of this good decision making, by helping women to profit and become independent financial actors.”

The business and financial literacy of our curriculum draws on more than a decade of field-tested materials from India and Ethiopia, where Self Help Group programming has a rich history.

We are proud to aggregate the highest quality content and then move it into the Creative Commons where it has the greatest likelihood of benefiting people around the world.

It’s no surprise that social empowerment goes hand-in-hand with financial independence. Where SHGs take root, gender roles and social roles can become more fluid. The power dynamic in a household can flip.

Young women may start to see role models emerge from an older generation, as women support one another through their learning and entrepreneurship.

There are truly inspiring stories emerging from the community of SHG members: members who started off by saving handfuls of grain can be running their own network of dump trucks back and forth across national borders moving commodities by the ton.

There are limitless ways to rise out of poverty and SHGs help vulnerable populations to hone in on the most strategic pathways while minimizing the downside risk.

Stay tuned for our next post that explores the impact of mobile technology on SHGs in particular.

Social Transformation as an Outcome of Women's Self-Help Groups

This week, we’re sharing a series of short videos that explore how Self Help Group (SHG) programming is a transformational and trend-setting approach to ending poverty.

Yesterday’s video highlighted how Self Help Groups improve the resilience of women members and their households to shocks. Today’s video focuses on the broader, social transformation that Self Help Groups enable.

In smaller towns, the impact of Self Help Group programming can be felt throughout the community. Our implementing partners describe how small communities can be transformed by Self Help Group programming.

Because of the benefits they realize, SHG members often show an enthusiasm for helping to start additional SHGs in their community or in neighbouring communities.

“This passion for SHGs has lead members to create powerful network effects in countries where SHG programming is mature,” says Nathaniel Calhoun, Principal at Code Innovation.

“In such cases, we see groups nominate members to join regional associations or even national level federations. These members become more sophisticated in their understanding of global economy and politics and use their united power to lobby government or the financial sector to meet their needs.”

Next, we’ll explore how Self Help Groups advance women’s financial independence and social empowerment.

When women start to make massive contributions to the financial wellbeing of their families, gender norms can start to change in ways that bring more opportunity to women of all ages.

Version 1.0 of Curriculum for our Digital Resource for Rape Crisis Counselors

A year ago at Code Innovation, we started a crowdfunding journey to create a digital resource for sexual assault survivors who seek medical care and the volunteer advocates who support them. With the support of rape crisis centers across the United States and the US Department of Justice, we have created a concise, four-part curriculum to guide volunteer advocates through a training primer in how to advocate for rape survivors in health centers in different contexts and communities around the world.

This digital intervention guides volunteer advocates on how to offer psychosocial support and medical advocacy, which empowers a rape survivor with the agency to make their own health decisions on the road to healing.

Research shows that rape survivors who have an advocate in the emergency room are significantly less likely to experience post-traumatic stress, anxiety and depression.

 

We also share this video to thank all of our crowdfunding supporters and also the Imago Dei Fund for creating the seed investment for this global digital resource.

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Experiments in Collaboration

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proportional piling helped us visualize what indicators were the most important to capture in the app Early this month, we invited nearly 50 people to join us in Nairobi for a two day “Co-Creation Workshop” in order to help us determine development and partnership priorities for our Self Help Group Digital Platform.

This mobile app began as a simple directory of content, tailored to the cultural context and organizational needs of Tearfund in Ethiopia (who have great expertise with the program model). But we built for scale and our app is becoming a multi-lingual, content-rich digital platform capable of meeting the needs of a much wider partner ecosystem.

There are hundreds of millions of people around the world who participate in savings groups and self-help groups. And there are scores of organizations who devote time and money to founding and supporting these groups because of the transformational impact such groups have demonstrated in vulnerable communities.

There is a diverse and fast growing ecosystem of technologies being built for these groups, often focused on digital bookkeeping, mobile money transfers or enabling monitoring and evaluation protocols to provide transparency into group health and function.

We’re focused on providing a content-rich, field-tested volume of curricula specifically crafted for facilitators to use during group meetings, along with curricula that helps facilitators to develop their skills outside of the meeting context.

The organizations that joined us in Nairobi included large international organizations that are already household names, to smaller national NGOs that may be focused on spreading just a few hundred groups per year. A few donors, technologists and government organizations rounded out the field.

Nathaniel Calhoun leading a discussion on development priorities for the next version of the app

Different NGOs have different thematic priorities like improving conditions around water and sanitation, for example, or improving maternal and neonatal child health. They also run different varieties of group, for different durations and with different norms and expectations around interest and “pay-outs” or “graduation.” On top of that diversity, organizations operate in a variety of linguistic and cultural contexts.

When we received funding late last year, we made it clear that we’d need to gather together our potential partners in order to take direction from their needs and perspectives. That’s what this workshop was all about: bringing organizations together to look for areas of consensus that can determine where we invest and develop.

In advance of the workshop, there was trepidation among organizers and participants. After all, in other contexts, these organizations can emphasize their differences and their special ways of modifying the basic programmatic nugget: people saving small amounts of money together each week for their mutual benefit.

Although 90% of the people in the room focus many of their working hours on promoting and supporting self help or savings groups, when we asked people to raise their hands if they knew five or more people in the room, only a handful could do so.

We thought it would be helpful for these different organizations to learn about one another's (sometimes competing) priorities for (at least) two reasons: first, it will help our user community to understand that our development priorities are not set at random and that things which might not be immediately helpful within one organization’s context might be critical to another; second, we hoped to see priorities converge.

Our sessions focused on a few key areas:

* The front-end of the application—what you can see if you download the app from the play store (link)—which is what our facilitators and group members see;

* The back-end of the application—what you see if you have a password-protected coordinator login. Dashboards and panels that give you an indication of how your groups are functioning and what sort of data has been gathered from them.

* Different methods for monitoring and evaluating the groups, whether to validate the program model in general by surfacing increased resilience and prosperity, or whether to track aspects of the impact of our involving technologies in particular.

* What sort of thematic content is most urgent for these groups? What is most live-saving? What brings the greatest prosperity and health?

We assigned seating so that people from the same organizations and countries were rarely together and relied heavily upon table discussions to fill out worksheets that would then be presented to the larger group. We’re still chewing through roughly 150 pages of concrete and quality suggestions and perspective from the event.

And one of our favorite event innovations was to leave the last two and half hours relatively free on the second day, a Friday. We asked each organization to sit with one of our team members for 15 minutes at a pre-agreed time and provided a table of 15 minute time slots—all the rest of which were open. We encouraged participants, throughout the event, to make meetings with one another and to use those two and half hours to connect with one another.

But this was a Friday afternoon after the formal closing session of the event; so there was, understandably, some worry that people might pull a vanishing act. Instead, organizations sat together in all sorts of combinations even past the time we’d allotted for the meetings.

Having been at a ton of conferences that generate momentum and then end with some calls to collaborate afterwards, it felt great to move the “end” forward by a few hours and actually give that collaboration a chance to develop.

We’re grateful to all those who attended and to the Foundation support that it made it possible for us to hose this event. Stay tuned to hear what development priorities float to the top and which organizations join us soonest to continue improving upon this powerful open source tool for development.

Diverse partners implementing self help and savings groups came together to inform our app development process

PRESS RELEASE: Self Help Group Platform to be Further Developed as a Digital Financial Resource for the Poor

Self Help Group app in food insecure regions of Tanzania (www.codeinnovation.com) 11 November, 2016 – Code Innovation is pleased to announce that it has received a grant from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation to further develop our Self Help Group digital platform. The grant will help to improve the free and open source Self Help Group mobile application while increasing its accessibility and partner ecosystem, with an initial focus in reaching women and girls in South Asia and Africa.

“Self Help Groups have a unique ability to teach business and financial literacy and to seed new ventures while reducing risk to the individual,” says Nathaniel Calhoun, Director of Strategy at Code Innovation. “In the process of improving the platform, we anticipate growing our global coalition of participating organizations from the NGO community, the donor community and also from relevant private and financial sector entities. We aim to build momentum behind this coalition of beneficiaries and benefactors who see value in lowering the barriers to scaling and spreading the Self Help Group model to reach more women and girls. We look forward to developing this into a key platform for the low-risk, scalable and cost-effective delivery of digital and financial services to populations that have not previously benefited from financial services or digital technologies.”

Over the course of the 18-month grant, improvements will focus on building out tools that support Self Help Group processes, as well as incorporating additional thematic content around financial inclusion, women’s and girls’ empowerment, family planning, HIV and other risk reduction behaviors, maternal, newborn and child health, agricultural practices and other areas based on users’ expressed needs. Development priorities will be informed by the Principles for Digital Development and determined by our growing coalition of global partners who are seeding and supporting Self Help and similar groups in an effort to help vulnerable populations lift themselves out of poverty.

The platform, originally built as a simple content app for guiding Self Help Group facilitators through the process of forming new groups, has evolved to support wider facilitation needs. The Self Help Group app is currently reaching over one thousand English, Kiswahili and Amharic-speaking users, and new language versions will be added so that a wider range of communities can access and use the tool.

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To download the app on Android devices, visit: https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=com.self_help_group_code_innovation_one_hen&hl=en

For more updates on the Self Help Group digital platform, visit http://codeinnovation.com/blog/.

About Code Innovation: Code Innovation digitizes and scales programs that help vulnerable populations. We create educational materials and social innovations that strengthen communities and enable them to lift themselves out of poverty. We’ve had projects in more than a dozen countries and specialize in challenging, low-resource environments.

For more information, please contact: Elie Calhoun, Director of Operations, Code Innovation, Tel. +64-27-460-8994, email: elie@codeinnovation.com

NZ Herald Interviews Code Founder on Tech Innovations

The New Zealand Herald interviewed Code Innovation Founder, Nathaniel Calhoun for a lengthy piece in the weekend's Business Section available here. The questions focused primarily on how New Zealand could exercise greater positive impact in the world via their citizenry, their business community and their approach to international development.

This country, in particular, is already leading in two particular regards: first with novel and trend-setting approaches to building the commons; and second, with regards to innovating on cooperative business models and the technological tools to support them. New Zealand granted legal personhood to a disputed natural area earlier this year.

This bold precedent has already drawn the attention of foreign governments who are seeking to learn more about NZ's approach. Meanwhile, the folks at Enspiral Collective in Wellington have been leading edge thinkers about the 21st Century Cooperative for several years. Their products like Loomio and Cobudget are sturdy, market-proven resources that change the way that people cooperate and collaborate.

Nathaniel Calhoun will elaborate on some of the points in this article at his opening address to the people gathered in Christchurch, New Zealand next week at the Singularity University Summit.

Our Rape Crisis Counseling App is 100% Funded!

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Crowdfunding our Rape Crisis Counseling app for survivors of gender-based violence to receive emergency medical care (www.codeinnovation.com)

Code is happy to announce that our Rape Crisis Counseling app project is now 100% funded, thanks to support from the Imago Dei Fund after our crowdfunding campaign ended.

During the campaign, we saw support come from many sides and perspectives. We heard from colleagues that news had spread about the project from West Africa to Geneva, from the Philippines to Washington DC.

Rape Crisis Counseling App Social Media Update - Gloria Steinem posts about our project on Twitter (www.codeinnovation.com)One highlight of the campaign? When we received a Monday morning email from the "Office of Gloria Steinem," sharing that she would post a project endorsement on Twitter. This email was one of the most exciting that we received.

We're very proud to have the support of the important advocacy and research organization Report the Abuse, AWID and, since the campaign ended, we have also been joined by a national US sorority and several more women's rights and anti-violence organizations in sub-Saharan Africa.

Rape Crisis Counseling App Social Media Update - Gloria Steinem posts about our project on Twitter (www.codeinnovation.com)

Code created an extensive African-language mobile app, "About Ebola," with Snapp.cc, and we welcome partners who would like to see the basic content of the Rape Crisis Counseling app in their own languages.

Interested in joining us? Get in touch with me (elie@codeinnovation.com) to introduce yourself.

We are looking for women's rights organizations, anti-violence organizations and communities who would like to use our Rape Crisis Counseling app curriculum for training their own volunteers in crisis centers and health programs.

Also, we are designing the resource to provide in-hand support to rape survivors and their advocates, to help them navigate through the health system.

Next Step: Mobile Curriculum

Right now, the Code Innovation team is hard at work on a first version of our mobile app's content and curriculum. This is a big process, and we're taking our time to get primary training materials from partners including the Pittsburgh Action against Rape coalition, the Washington DC Rape Crisis Center and the Victim Assistance Training from the US Department of Justice.

Sign-up HERE for Updates on our progress!

Thank you for supporting the Rape Crisis Counseling app and spreading the word.

 

 

Digital Tools for Cooperatives and the Regenerative Economy

Ugandan women in a cooperative (www.codeinnovation.com)Code is looking forward to building on the success of our Self-Help Group app by optimizing it for other savings groups and other cooperative models. We’re also keen to explore how these tools might help to spread the influence of the Transition Network.

If you're at the Rotary Convention in Seoul, Korea, Nathaniel Calhoun is leading the first break-out session, "Rotary Business School: Innovation."

He'll be speaking on the future of learning, work and business and highlighting some of the first successful platform cooperatives and blockchain-based decentralized organizations.

Come and say hello!